An example of a franchise running out of steam, Christopher B. Landon’s directorial feature debut, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014) is the fifth instalment in the long-running, supernatural/found-footage series. Perhaps it should be re-titled, ‘Paranormal Activity: The Worst One’ as ultimately this film is beyond a waste of time and effort, however this was to be half-expected.
The Box Office figures wholly reflected that interest has been lost in the series with this latest offering being the lowest grossing sequel of the franchise on its opening weekend. It should also be noted that this is the only Paranormal Activity film that wasn’t released in the usual October/Halloween slot due to an extension in production meaning the release date was pushed until January 2014.
Landon deems The Marked Ones as more of a spin-off to the rest of the Paranormal Activity titles with it being set in Mexico and focused on a group of young Latinos rather than Sisters Katie and Kristi whose encounters with the demonic entity dominated the previous films. That said; there is a connection between the characters in this instalment and those from the previous that is loosely explained as the film goes on. The Marked Ones is set four years after the first found-footage creep-fest, Paranormal Activity (2007).
This time round high-school graduate Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) is the main target for the demonic presence. Following the bizarre death of his neighbour Anna (Gloria Sandoval) who is believed to be a witch, Jesse and his friends Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) begin to investigate and shoot their progress for no plausible reason whatsoever. Inconceivably, Jesse then ends up succumbing to the demon by displaying, mysterious visible bite marks to his body and carrying out violent behaviour. Soon enough Jesse will discover something sinister has been waiting for him his entire life and now it’s up to his friends to prevent a coven of witches known as ‘The Midwives’ from carrying out a ritual which will curse him in order to create an army of possessed young men. What are the chances?
Packed with pointless scenes that begin and end abruptly, adding nothing to the already contrived plot, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is both an example of lazy filmmaking and Hollywood milking the cash cow for all its worth. By setting it in a new location it would suggest that Landon would at least attempt to take the series in a different direction but instead it is just the same unimaginative drivel that’s been done to the death. Loud rumbling noises do not constitute as a genuine scare.
In fact every time the film attempted to give the audience a shudder it was completely predictable, making it easy to pin point when a jump scare was on its way; therefore removing any shred of suspense that is essential for a film of this kind. Instead of pushing the plot along it seemed like Jesse and co. were just filming pointless every-day life encounters even prior to the discovery of the evil entity which was simply unnecessary. The only plausible moment worthy of being filmed was the beginning at the high school graduation ceremony. The film takes an odd science-fiction turn introducing a ridiculous time-travel plot point which felt incredibly out of place even in a film that requires the suspension of disbelief anyway.
If there’s anything positive to say about the film it would be that the shaky cam was at a minimum so overall it wasn’t completely unwatchable in terms of its production values.
With unlikeable and obnoxious characters, a script that seemed half-written with lack of real direction from Landon, can the Paranormal Activity franchise just go away now? While the first one was disturbing in its own right and revived the found-footage sub-genre, enough is enough. Ideas have been bled dry and it’s because of uninspired films like this mainstream horror has hit a decline.